El Corredor Wins Stakes Debut at Del Mar

El Corredor won his stakes debut Sunday at Del Mar, winning the $245,600 Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) by 2 1/2 lengths over Cliquot. Under Victor Espinoza, El Corredor saved ground all the way around the track to complete the mile in 1:35.05.

Over a fast track, Cliquot raced to the early lead as Zanetti, Lord Sterling, and Highland Gold were caught wide on the first turn. Cliquot continued to lead on the backstretch until El Corredor challenged on the inside to assume a narrow lead. Cliquot kept right with El Corredor around the second turn, but El Corredor cut the corner and spurted away as Espinoza showed him the whip. The 3-year-old son of Mr. Greeley, in light at 111 pounds, continued along the rail through the stretch and crossed the wire under wraps. Literal Prowler finished third, followed by National Saint, Lord Sterling, Prime Timber, Zanetti, and Highland Gold.

"When we came up to the three-eighths pole, I decided to go up there with him," said Espinoza. "The rail has been OK and I didn't want to have to wait and go outside those horses. When I made the lead as easy as I did, I knew it was all over. I didn't push him at the end. He won pretty easy."

El Corredor is trained by Bob Baffert for owner Hal J. Earnhardt. He earned $158,160 for the win, his fourth in five starts. Previous to Sunday's race, El Corredor won an optional claiming race, an allowance race, and a maiden race, all at under seven furlongs. The Del Mar Breeders' Cup Handicap win marks his fourth consecutive win. He was bred in Kentucky by Needham-Betz Thoroughbreds/Liberation.

"This was a good spot for him," Baffert said. "I didn't want to sprint him anymore because he's so fast. You slow them down and they last longer. He's had some problems in the past, mostly because he ran so fast. Stretching him out was a test for him today. Now that we know he can get a mile, we can do a lot of things with him."

Sent off as the slim favorite, El Corredor paid $7.20, $3.80, and $3.20. The $1 exacta combination returned $11. (Chart, Equibase)